Only during such a crazy and unexpected time as 2020 would a term like “mask mouth” enter our collective vocabulary. If you somehow haven’t heard the term before, mask mouth refers to smelling one’s own breath when wearing a mask. Since activities like visiting the grocery store or your Roxborough family dentist now necessitate wearing a mask, most of us have come to the unwanted realization that our breath doesn’t always smell nearly as pleasant as we may hope.
Wearing a face mask while out in public can significantly decrease the spread of COVID-19, but it can also increase our risk for tooth decay and bad breath. That’s because people have a tendency to breathe through their mouth when wearing a facial covering. Breathing through our mouths causes saliva to dry out. Even though most of us don’t give it much thought, saliva actually plays an important role in helping to protect the health of our teeth.
The drier our mouths become, the more susceptible our teeth become to the effects of gum disease and tooth decay. Additionally, dry mouth can also increase how frequently we deal with bad breath.
To keep your oral health protected, while also limiting the risk for COVID-19, here’s you need to know about “mask mouth.”
Why Does Mask Mouth Matter?
If wearing a mask keeps your breath and any respiratory droplets from spreading, why does it matter if my breath stinks?
It’s a fair question, one where the answer may seem more complicated than you might expect.
To understand why it matters, let’s take a minute to talk about saliva.
Saliva acts as the body’s natural defense mechanism against harmful oral bacteria and food particles that linger in the mouth after eating. When we eat a large meal, like lunch or dinner, our mouths produce additional saliva to help with digestion and to flush food particles out of the mouth.
Saliva also works to neutralize harmful oral bacteria that contributes to the development of tooth decay and cavities.
When our mouths become dry, saliva can no longer provide any protection. This enables the foods we eat to continue lingering in the mouth and for harmful oral bacteria to cause far more damage than normal.
Wearing a mask makes it more likely that we will breathe through our mouths, drying out the valuable saliva within. As a result, dentists are seeing more cases of patients experiencing inflammation of the gums (an early sign of gingivitis) and of tooth decay. Additionally, without the presence of saliva to flush food particles out of our mouths, the particles are allowed to linger and decay, further contributing to the development of bad breath.
So, while mask mouth may not seem like a big deal, it can secretly sabotage your oral health if you don’t take a few simple precautions.
Protecting Your Oral Health
Since wearing a mask provides such a huge amount of public and personal benefit, trying to limit the effects of mask mouth is worth the effort.
To prevent dry mouth, your Roxborough family dentist recommends drinking plenty of water, chewing sugar-free gum, and to brush and floss regularly. Despite the World Health Organizations misguided recommendations, it’s still important to continue receiving regular dental care from your Roxborough family dentist during the pandemic.
Preliminary research has found that patients with gum disease have a potentially higher risk for developing a more severe case of COVID-19 should they contract the virus. Regular dental care can also help to lower your risk for the types of underlying conditions that make COVID-19 cases more likely to require hospitalization, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Even as many things we once took for granted continue to change during these uncertain times, making your oral health a top priority remains as true now as it did at the beginning of the year. Practicing quality oral hygiene at home can help to reduce the effects of mask mouth so you can continue to enjoy a healthy, great-looking smile once this pandemic is over as you did before 2020.
By brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily, you can limit the impact of mask mouth on your oral health. If you continue to experience persistent dry mouth, try chewing sugar-free gum to provide your saliva glands with the stimulation needed to keep your mouth moist and healthy.
If you have any questions about how to best protect your oral health at home, feel free to ask any member of our team during your next visit to see your Roxborough family dentist.